GENEVA – Melting of the Arctic’s sea ice reached a record extent in 2012, the ninth-hottest year on record, compounding concerns about climate change, the U.N. weather agency said Thursday.
In a report on the situation in 2012, the World Meteorological Organization said that from August to September, the Arctic’s sea ice covered an area of just 3.4 million sq. km.
That was a full 18 percent less than the previous record low, set in 2007.
WMO Secretary General Michel Jarraud dubbed it a “disturbing sign of climate change.”
“The year 2012 saw many other extremes as well, such as droughts and tropical cyclones. Natural climate variability has always resulted in such extremes, but the physical characteristics of extreme weather and climate events are being increasingly shaped by climate change,” he said.
“For example, because global sea levels are now about 20 cm higher than they were in 1880, storms such as Hurricane Sandy are bringing more coastal flooding than they would have otherwise,” he added. The October hurricane killed almost 300 people in the Caribbean and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage and around 130 deaths in the eastern United States.
Typhoon Bopha, the deadliest tropical cyclone of the year, hit the Philippines twice in December, sparking floods and landslides that killed more than 1,000 people.
The WMO said that the 2012 global land and ocean surface temperature was estimated to be 0.45 degrees Celsius above the 1961-1990 average of 14 C.
That marked the ninth-warmest year since records began in 1850 and the 27th consecutive year that the global land and ocean temperatures were above the 1961-1990 average.
Jarraud noted that the rate of warming varies from year to year due to a range of factors, but “the sustained warming of the lower atmosphere is a worrisome sign.”